02/08/2012 6:31PM

Santa Anita: Empire Way headed to San Felipe

Shigeki Kikkawa
Empire Way was a closing second in the Robert Lewis.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Empire Way, second to I’ll Have Another in the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes last Saturday at Santa Anita, will be pointed for the $300,000 San Felipe Stakes on March 10.

Trainer Mike Harrington said on Wednesday that Empire Way has been “hard to keep on the ground” since the Lewis Stakes. In the Lewis, run over 1 1/16 miles, Empire Way closed from last in a field of eight to finish 2 3/4 lengths behind 43-1 winner I’ll Have Another.

“I’m very happy with the second,” Harrington said. “The one thing, he was closing ground on a speed-favoring track.”

Owned by Heinz Steinmann, Empire Way earned $40,000 in graded stakes earnings in the Lewis, the criterion used to determine the 20 starters in the Kentucky Derby on May 5 if the race oversubscribes. Gaining additional graded stakes earnings in the San Felipe would help Empire Way’s chances of making the Kentucky Derby, but Harrington and Steinmann may have another candidate for that race in Creative Cause.

Third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs in November, Creative Cause will make his 2012 debut in the $150,000 San Vicente Stakes over seven furlongs on Feb. 19. Creative Cause’s second start of the season has not been determined.

“My problem is I’m undecided what I’ll do with Creative Cause,” Harrington said. “I’ll try to map out a plan for him. I’d run them both in the San Felipe, but Empire Way needs graded money and if [Creative Cause] outruns him I’ll be shooting myself in the foot.”

Both Creative Cause (20-1) and Empire Way (50-1) are part of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager that is being offered this weekend.

Melrose Woods changes hands

Melrose Woods, the upset winner of a maiden race for 3-year-old fillies in her career debut on Jan. 27, has been purchased privately by Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael Stables, trainer Dan Hendricks said.

Melrose Woods was based with Hendricks at his Santa Anita stable as of Wednesday, but is scheduled to ship to Florida in coming days, Hendricks said. He said he was not aware of who the new trainer would be. The Jacksons were not immediately available for comment.

Previously owned by Thor-Bred Stable, Melrose Woods, by Broken Vow, closed from fifth in a field of eight to win a maiden race over 6 1/2 furlongs by a half-length as the 45-1 longest shot in the field.

The purchase price of the private transaction was not disclosed, Hendricks said.